travel hats

Sunday Afternoons Sun Protection Clothing for Kids

Sunday Afternoons makes affordable, high-quality sun protection clothing for kids and adults. They’re based near my hometown in Oregon, but trust me, Sunday Afternoons knows how to block bright sunshine. We took both a child’s hat and tee along for a Southern California desert camping trip through Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks, and my fair-skinned Oregon-native boy lived to tell the tale!

sunday-afternoons

Sunday Afternoons’ Radiant Tee is the perfect all-purpose, no-frills sun protection t-shirt. It’s a simple crew-neck with long sleeves and a roomy cut, is quick-dry, and rated to UPF 50. It does feature anti-micrbial properties (I look for this when purchasing outdoor clothing for my boys) and can get tossed in the wash with all the other clothing (no special treatments required). It’s long-sleeved but lightweight and comfortable in heat, and comes in multiple colors for boys and girls (tide pool, white, and blue fin for boys, the same for girls plus dahlia). Best of all, the Radiant Tee is only $20 on Sunday Afternoons. Sizes start at 2T and go to Large, which is approximately a child’s 10-12.

sunday-afternoons

The brand is known for their sun hats, and my kids have been wearing them since infancy. My nine-year-old’s current favorite is the Scout hat (pictured above), probably because it looks a lot like Mom and Dad’s. He’s outgrown the billed hats and the bonnet-styles, but the Scout looks downright cool. He’s worn it everywhere from Disneyland to Death Valley. It does equally well when soaked in water (while river rafting) and in wind or rain (it does still have a draw cord for the chin). The Scout hat comes in Iris, Morning Glory, Tan, and Sand, in baby or youth sizing. Pick one up for only $26 on Sunday Afternoons, or on Amazon for the same price.

You can find a wide range of Sunday Afternoons hats at REI and some of their hats and sun protection clothing at Backcountry.

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The Ish Smart Watch

The Ish WatchEver felt that your watch was too casual or lacked that sense of Wall Street professionalism that your colleagues had? Well, for those with a sense of humor and an eagerness to make a statement, The Ish watch is the perfect accessory. I tried it on a few business meetings, and it certainly earned me a laugh and some camaraderie with business associates.

This watch isn’t meant for the business traveler constantly checking his dial by the minute to make the next train or plane. It is meant for those making an important statement: I care about business, but I also care about my own personality.

The watch essentially shows only the 5 o’clock mark while the hands rotate around it based on the appropriate time. The message is that the wearer is interested in having a good time, but is also smart enough to tell time without the numbers imprinted on the watch. To add to that message of good fun is that the back of the watch features a clasp designed to serve as a bottle opener. Perfect for use at 5 o’clock!

The price tag of close to $150 is reflective of its quality rather than its playful vanity. With a brushed steel casing and black (or brown) leather band, the watch is quite fetching and certainly a keeper (not a gag gift).

It is water-resistant and features raised Arabic markers with a crystal frosted mineral window showcasing the face. This is a business-quality watch that only signals an entertainment focus if one were to look closely at it. It is definitely not for those that need a digital watch as it requires a teensy semblance of telling time, which is sadly not a quality that everyone possesses these days. The watch is available from manufacturer Happy Hour Timepieces or on Amazon.

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Pack More in Less Space with Eagle Creek Compression Pack-it Cubes

pack-it specter compressionThere are plenty of packing cubes, pouches, and folders out there to get you organized in your packing, but these Specter Pack-it Compression Cubes from Eagle Creek take the concept a big step forward. Instead of just giving you something to stuff your clothes into, they actually help you carry more in the same space.

It’s not a radical concept: we’ve long had Space Bags and other compression systems (Eagle Creek makes their own version too) to reduce sweaters and bulky coats down. You know, those clear plastic things that are shot if they get a tiny hole in them. But those are better for a one-time move than regular use. These cubes, on the other hand, are easy to work with, super-lightweight, and not dependent on having an airtight seal.pack-it specter compressed

Basically these are made like the regular Eagle Creek Specter super-light cubes, but with a key twist. You can use them normally, but then after you zip your things inside, you activate another zipper to compress the bag tighter. The fabric may be light but it’s super-strong, so the cube holds everything in well. Like a diet ad, the top photo is before it’s zipped up, the bottom photo is the after.

I was going to create a video to show this more clearly, but hey, Eagle Creek already did that:

These are stain and water-resistant, plus there’s a handle on top to pull them out and toss them in a hotel drawer. I’ve been taking one of these on trips for months now and while I often leave the other cubes behind, this one has become a regular on my list. I use mine a lot for dirty laundry because who wants that taking up a lot of room? You can cram a lot of socks, underwear, and t-shirts in here, then you zip it up and reduce the bulk in half.

These come in two sizes and are generally sold as a set for $38. You can get them in green, orange, or white with one of those as an accent. Get the zip-up Specter Compression Cubes direct from Eagle Creek or check online at Backcountry, Moosejaw, or Zappos.

See more of our Eagle Creek travel gear reviews.

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The Best Travel Gear We Reviewed This Year (2013)

Sea to Summit waterproof daypackZiwa convertible

We review a whole lot of travel gear on this blog every week, some of it good, some of it so great we can’t stop talking about it. Out of the 250+ travel and outdoor adventure items we used and abused this year, here’s what the four of us liked the best. And for those keeping score from what’s below, yes Eagle Creek and ExOfficio are always safe bets when you walk out the door to some place on the other side of the globe…

Jill Robinson’s Favorite Gear of the Year

best jacket of the yearThis year had me all over the map, from adventures in Africa to diving in Fiji. Often, I only had a couple of days between trips to unpack and repack again, so my favorite travel gear items are ones that helped me most along the way. The one item that was nearly always in my bag (except for those hot, tropical locations) was the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket. It’s so compressible that I’ve crammed it into small pockets in my carry-on luggage on a handful of trips. Once unpacked, it keeps me warm in the coldest climates.

The bag I used most this year, aside from my tried-and-true Gregory Cache 22 (a favorite from 2012), was the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior. The duffel on wheels has handy grab loops, stashes tons of gear, and is far sturdier than any duffel I’ve tried to date.

GoTubb containersThe two brands I turned to again and again, were Icebreaker and ExOfficio. Icebreaker’s quality merino wool clothing, from skirts to neck gaiters, keeps me warm (or cool, as the case may be) and allows for numerous wear days before washing. If that’s not your dream as a traveler, you haven’t been traveling long enough. ExOfficio clothing kept bugs away from me and also allowed me to look like the most dressed-up person in the room while out on safari in Namibia.

My best bargain items are the GoTubb Containers, which snap open and shut with ease, but not by themselves, so you can rely on them staying shut when you travel. Plus, when it’s time to open them, you can even do so with one hand. Sometimes, those simple things are like magic when you’re traveling.

Ramsey Qubein’s Travel Gear Favorites

My travel schedule in 2013 was as hectic as ever, but I loved every minute of it. For me, comfort and flexibility are paramount, which is why my 20Jeans went with me on half my trips. They are comfortable, soft, and (since my pair is a khaki color) ideal for business casual meetings as well as travel days.

Rolling through the airport with my Briggs & Riley Torq Spinner was a cinch thanks to the four wheels (my new must-have for travel luggage). I loved the fact that the bag looks so different from other peoples’ carry-on meaning no one will mistakenly pick it up as their own.

Clarks clutch engine

But, what good is having an easy-to-roll bag if your feet hurt from walking so much? My favorite travel shoe of the year is my pair of Clark’s Clutch Engine shoes for their comfort and versatility. I could be on a weeklong trip, and only carry one pair of shoes.

For the rare day when I was at home, the DefenderPad laptop shield was a great way for me to catch up on work with my laptop while lounging on the sofa or in bed. It kept my legs from getting too warm and also doubles as a great tray for eating on the sofa!

Amy Whitley’s Family Travel Outdoor Gear Picks

Osprey VerveFor me, 2013 was the year of wilderness travel for me and my gang, and my top travel gear reflects this. It’s hard to pick just one favorite, but topping my list has to be my Osprey Verve 5 L, reviewed in this hydration pack round-up post. Not only did the Verve get me through ski season well hydrated, but it continued to work hard throughout summer mountain hikes and desert road trips. I even got gross chair lift oil on my Verve, and it came out good as new.

What else did I reach for again and again? My pair of Tilley Endurables Venture Trek Pants. I wore these pants almost continually during a five-day river rafting trip, and then brought them along to backpack in the Trinity Alps. What makes them great: they’re lightweight, stain-resistant, quick-drying, and convertible.

Lastly, I wouldn’t be where I am today (literally) without my Eagle Creek Flipswitch carry-on. The Flipswitch has logged almost as many air miles as I have (or rather, as my son has, because he’s successfully stolen it from me). It’s endured the inconvenience of TSA checks, the stress ofoverhead storage bin wars, and the abuse of a teen boy.

Eagle Creek Morphus

Tim Leffel’s Digital Nomad Gear Picks

Tuna Alley Sunglasses

This past year I traveled to Europe and up and down the Americas, moving my family to the highlands of central Mexico in the latter half.

There was a lot of hiking, biking, and sidewalk surfing in there, so as usual I was wearing a lot of different travel pants. At least two of these four have gone in my bag on every trip this year: Craghoppers Kiwi Stretch Pants, ExOfficio Kukura Trek’r stretchy pants, the lighter revamped nylon P^Cubed Adventure Pants, and the super light Mountain Khakis Equatorial Pants.

In a sea of similar luggage, the Eagle Creek Morphus bag pictured above stood out for its transformer properties. It’s a backpack, a carry-on, a rolling checked suitcase, or two separate bags. Very cool. Maybe not as cool, but just super-useful for traveling with a laptop and gadgets is this Deuter Giga Laptop backpack.

Light packers who avoid baggage fees often carry a secret: little packets and pouches that expand on the other end to be bags and daypacks. I’ve used the Sea to Summit waterproof one a lot and it holds an amazing amount of stuff.

GSI Coffee Press mugA few years back my year-end picks included the original ExOfficio Storm Logic jacket that turned into a travel pillow. The new Storm Logic has added a slew of pockets for all the things a traveler is carrying and it’s even better. (The Deluvian Rain Jacket that Jill reviewed and I will later also has the pocket system.)

I hardly went or lived anywhere cloudy, so I tried out a lot of sunglasses this year. These Costa del Mar Tuna Alley ones I’m wearing above are the shades I keep reaching for without thinking. They’re pretty darn close to perfect.

My favorite inexpensive gadget item was the GSI Coffee Press mug. I’ve probably used this 50 times already.

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Bluetune Bean Portable Speaker by Divoom

Frequent travelers know that “smaller and more compact” is important for those with carry-on bags. When listening to music on the road, it is either via headphones or on the average-quality speakers that come on a laptop. Luckily, Divoom has created a travel-size speaker that is surprisingly powerful despite its teensy size.

It has a built-in microphone that also makes it great for using with Skype phone calls or teleconferences. It connects wirelessly with your laptop, stereo, iPod, iPhone, television, or even musical instruments via Bluetooth streaming connection. There is also a rechargeable battery inside to make it easier to keep it powered up.

What I like most about it is that it fits easily into the outer pocket of my laptop bag and can even slip into my back pants pocket if I am in a hurry. It provides enough sound to enjoy your music or conversation at a comfortable decibel without sending the sound waves across the room the way a boom box on the beach might (cue the 1980s imagery here).

With a clip on hook, it can dangle from a briefcase or backpack or simply hang on your belt loop. That’s exactly how I used it when making a Skype phone call for a meeting, which had me pacing back and forth. I was a bit worried about it when it got wet in the rain while dangling from my bag, however.

It may not be designed to get wet, but there was no disruption in the quality of the sound or its connectivity. The low price point makes it a great gift, which combines the benefits of lightweight portability with powerful sound.

It comes in a variety of color combinations to satisfy your own personal sense of style and costs $29.99 from on Divoom’s website or on Amazon.

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